Penultimate stop on the last leg of the journey, from Harwich to home in Newbold Verdon, Leicestershire, was Kings Lynn, to say a personal 'thank you' to sponsor and insurance-provider Bikesure.
The stats of their adventure are amazing: 68 countries, 30 oil changes, 20 tyres, five gearbox rebuilds and numerous other repairs. Plus two BMWs: Bertha, a 1993 R100 GS/PD which carried Pat and Helen down to South Africa and up through South America, where the frame got bent. So she was replaced by Berthette (Bertha's little sister), a 1989 R80 GS, which has travelled across the United States, Asia and Europe. The only real modifications were to the suspension, to carry the couple's gear.
While it started as a way to escape England's grey skies and see a bit of the world, the trip also had a serious objective: to raise awareness and money for two excellent charities, Voluntary Service Overseas and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. "We're not sure yet how much we raised as most of it went straight to the charities," says Pat. "Our route was chosen to visit as many of the countries in which VSO has programmes and our website gives an indication of the types of projects that are ongoing."
What about the highs and lows? "The scariest moment was riding through a herd of elephants near Victoria Falls," says Helen. The various lows included punctures ("Though, to be fair, surprisingly few," admits to Pat); having a camera bag (with films) stolen; and taking eight days to get across the desert in the Sudan. But Pat reckons the couple's most traumatic low was when Helen suffered a stroke in Guyana.
Meanwhile, numerous highs included Christmas on the beach in Chile and having a castle to themselves for the night in Syria.
Bikesure got involved as the couple turned back towards the UK. "One theme in our journal was the generosity of strangers in the poorest parts of the world, especially as it compared with the selfishness we experienced in Europe," says Pat. "We wowed on about it quite a bit - then Bikesure took the wind out of our sails with a simple act of kindness.
"We'd had problems getting insurance for when we got back to the UK. We contacted Bikesure, and when they heard we were raising money for VSO and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust they offered us free insurance, without even being asked. And they've run a dress down day to raise cash for a donation.
"So, although we're keen to get back home, we figured a 'thank you' was in order. Anyway, what's a small detour after 93,000 miles?" he adds.
You can read up the couple's adventures, and check out photos, on their website, where you can also make donations to their chosen charities.
Bikesure has a huge range of specialist policies for the motorcycle enthusiast, including schemes for scooters, trikes, quads and bug riders.
For details freephone the Bikesure quote line on 0800 089 2000, email the company at bikesure[.]adrianflux.co.uk.
Participants: Patrick Watson(43) and Helen Antcliff(39) - still husband and wife after the highs and lows of budget adventure travel.
Trip: Started 15/9/2001; returned 15/9/2006.
Phase 1: England to S Africa via E Europe, Middle East and East Africa.
Phase 2: South America from Buenos Aires to Guyana
Phase 3: Florida to Vancouver via the southern and western states with a big detour down to Panama and back
Phase 4: Singapore to England with an enforced flight over Burma/Myanmar
Additional thanks to:
Hein Gericke who provided our riding gear; Motobins and Motorworks who have shared the spares supplying between them often at the drop of a hat (Motobins got a gearbox spring to India in just three days); extraordinary individuals Socrates and Cassandra (fuel in Greece); Georges Siyoufi and Sons, Allepo, Syria (brake linings, clutches etc.); the Kurdish quarrymen who fed us and found an inner tube; the random mechanic for the free oil change in Gilgit, Pakistan; Stevie Hill for her help in the desert; Will Watson who generously gave up his time to maintain the website for us; Helen's sister Mary who looked after all our affairs; and Pat's Mum and Dad for putting up with a cellar full of junk…
Citizens of the world?
Pat, Helen and Berthette picked up all sorts of bits and pieces form around the world (as well as losing a few). Pat's winged bike club badge was given him in Argentina; Berthette's seat was repaired in Penang, she lost her mirrors in a doorway in Mexico (and got new ones welded on in the USA); Helen's rucksack was bought in Chile, her watch in Pakistan…
The trip's lucky mascot is a rusty paint tin lid, picked up in the desert in Iran. Why? Because it was the perfect thing to put under the bike stand to stop it falling over in the sand. And it subsequently proved useful for all sorts of applications, form fly swat to candle holder.
The most unexpected place for stunning scenery was Kosovo; the most unexpectedly enjoyable country was Argentina.
Top Two Tips For Adventure Biking
· Canoe Rolls: brilliant for rolling up all your kit. Totally waterproof and very durable.
· If it's a long trip, get a helmet with removable liners (so you can wash them).